Telluride Foundation: Connecting the dots on energy efficiency
San Miguel Power Partners ends trial period, opens program to SMPA membersBy Kathrine WarrenStaff ReporterPublished: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 8:39 PM CSTSaving energy and money are, in theory, no-brainers. But putting the theory into practice can be daunting, especially when it comes to finding out how to become more energy efficient and where to find help realizing the savings.San Miguel Power Association, the region's cooperative power distributor, has teamed up with the International Center for Appropriate & Sustainable Technology (iCAST) - a Lakewood, Colo.-based organization - to offer all the tools home and business owners need to improve energy efficiency.The program, titled San Miguel Power Partners, offers SMPA members an all- encompassing regimen replete with energy audits and confirmation that the audit's recommendations are implemented. The program even offers financing to help pay for the recommended energy upgrades.SMPP has been in the works for about a year now, and after a three-month trial period, is now open to all SMPA members. SMPA and iCAST representatives spoke to a small crowd of interested contractors and members on Tuesday to share details of the new program.Brad Zaporski, SMPA's manager of energy and member services, said the power cooperative has offered energy retrofitting to low-income residents in the past. The new program opens the service to any SMPA member."We really feel that this pulls together a lot of different pieces and makes it one comprehensive unit," Zaporski said.He said members who have opted for energy audits in the past have had a tendency to pay for the audit, but not to follow through on its recommendations. "This will be the missing link that is needed to get people to do energy conservation measures," he said.Here's how the program works: Once a member opts into the program, they contact SMPA or iCAST and schedule an audit. A certified energy auditor inspects the property from top to bottom and comes back to the owner with a list of what can be done to improve the property's energy efficiency. Those recommendations could include a host of possibilities such as weather stripping, better insulation, new light bulbs, new appliances and heating and cooling system improvements.Property owners then have the option to pay for those changes out of pocket, but can also get a 6.99 percent loan of up to $8,000 from Alpine Bank. Loan payments can be structured to make the retrofit cash neutral, even profitable.(For example, if energy upgrades save a homeowner $100 on monthly power bills, then the loan can be set up with $100 monthly payments. Or a loan can be extended up to 10 years to be cash positive, to help property owners save money each month.)Financing is also available for non-profits and government agencies through the Gates Family Foundation.SMPP uses local businesses to conduct the energy assessments and perform retrofits."This is about empowering the local community," said Sylvia Pankiewicz, iCAST's marketing and communications manager.So far, iCAST has conducted 10 energy efficiency assessments, and has four contracts in place for project upgrades. Two of those customers are ASAP Accounting & Payroll and the Telluride Foundation, which are both in the New San Juan Building on Colorado Avenue.In the Telluride Foundation's headquarters, Controlled Hydronics will replace the furnace with a high efficiency unit that controls both heating and cooling. The Foundation will also get a programmable thermostat to better control building temperatures when staff is actually there."We see this as a market-based solution for homeowners to reduce their caring cost of owning a home and turning that into cash that they can spend in their community," said Paul Major, president and CEO of the Telluride Foundation. The Foundation has supported the program since offering retrofitting with SMPA in the West End.Throughout the New San Juan Building, lights have been swapped out with low-energy fluorescents and CFLs. ASAP is in the process of replacing energy sucking light bulbs and will soon have a device that brings in outside air during summer to cool the offices. (The office sits atop a hot yoga studio, so it doesn't need to be heated during the winter.)SMPP is simultaneously certifying local contractors and scheduling retrofits with property owners.Pankiewicz said they have four audits scheduled for this month, including a 135-unit apartment complex and a 50-unit condominium complex."We're off to a great start," she said.For more information about San Miguel Power Partners visit www.icastusa.org/smpp or smpa.com.